John

Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Are You A Facebook Gangsta?

In Videos on May 29, 2008 at 8:23 am

Yeah, so who the fuck is Scotty? LOL. Thanks College Humour!

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Time’s Up For Web 2.0

In News, Online on May 29, 2008 at 6:44 am

(Pic from CJLUC)

Wow. Looks like this week hasn’t been a happy one for the proponents of Web 2.0. The Register called 27 May the day when “you can begin see the true, scary picture of internet economics today,” following the Financial Times’s report on the state of Web 2.0 in a piece called “Web 2.0 fails to produce cash.

Here’s an excerpt of the gloomy report:

Many members of the Web 2.0 generation of internet companies have so far produced little in the way of revenue, despite bringing about some significant changes in online behaviour, according to some of the entrepreneurs and financiers behind the movement.

The shortage of revenue among social networks, blogs and other “social media” sites that put user-generated content and communications at their core has persisted despite more than four years of experimentation aimed at turning such sites into money-makers. Together with the US economic downturn and a shortage of initial public offerings, the failure has damped the mood in internet start-up circles.

“There is going to be a shake-out here in the next year or two” as many Web 2.0 companies disappear, said Roger Lee, a partner at Battery Ventures.

They did, however, end the story with a note of optimism for the future:

Despite the slow start to money-making by Web 2.0 companies, the trend towards more social online behaviour that it embodies is widely claimed by insiders to be of lasting significance.

“The capabilities that are coming with Web 2.0 are very profound,” said Devin Wenig, head of the markets division of Thomson Reuters. “The Valley is usually right, and it’s usually early.”

The notion that Web 2.0 has been a marketing catchphrase developed by Tim O’Reilly has been well-spotted earlier on by cynical columnists like John C. Dvorak in his piece Web 2.0 Baloney. Despite the warnings, however, many VCs have continued to pour in money into Web 2.0 ventures because “Web 2.0” is such an alluring term to describe the social worth of the web. So much so, in fact, that little attention has been made to the question of monetization.

The “M” word has gained more traction of late as news of the billion-dollar Viacom lawsuit against YouTube exposes the weaknesses of YouTube’s business plan that hinges heavily on copyrighted material. Many analysts wondered how YouTube could be valued at the $1.65 billion acquisition price, considering that it only earned $31m last year. More disturbingly is the fact that since being acquired by Google, YouTube still hasn’t developed any new plans to monetize the number of views.

The logic that looms overhead is: If Google can’t find a way, then who can? What will happen of the remaining Web 2.0 ventures: Is Facebook still worth $15billion dollars? How will MySpace monetize itself to turn it into a profitable venture for Rupert Murdoch?

Watch this space.

NASA’s Phoenix Lands On Mars. Kickass pictures returned.

In Geek Stuff, News on May 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm

pic source: BBC

The BBC reports:

A Nasa spacecraft has sent back historic first pictures of an unexplored region of Mars.

The Mars Phoenix lander touched down in the far north of the Red Planet, after a 680 million-km (423 million-mile) journey from Earth.

The probe is equipped with a robotic arm to dig for water-ice thought to be buried beneath the surface.

The Nasa team monitored each stage of the descent and landing process through radio messages relayed to Earth via the Odyssey satellite in orbit around Mars.

“In my dreams, it couldn’t have gone as perfectly as it did tonight,” said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at JPL.

Nasa found out more about the landing when pictures from the probe reached the Earth.

The first images showed the “Arctic plain” where Phoenix came to rest – a region of Mars that has never been seen up close before.

Other shots confirmed that the probe’s solar arrays had unfurled successfully, and that it had landed safely on its legs.

The pictures returned are truly awe inspiring. Thank you NASA.

click for full size.

Additional pictures of Mars and the Phoenix Lander.

The Evolution Of Blogging

In Online on May 26, 2008 at 5:12 am

(Pic from Zits)

One of the great things about the web as a medium is its constant evolution. Compared to what the web was 10 years ago, the web has turned itself from a traditional top-down medium, to a revolutionary bottom-up medium. It’s Guttenberg’s printing machine on crack, easily obtained at the price of one free e-mail account and a decent broadband connection.

One example of how this media evolution can be seen is in the way blogging has changed. When the idea of a blog (or “web-log”) came up, I remember not knowing what to do with it. And so did the rest of the internet community.

Debates came up about what a blog is, what sort of content should go on it, whether this new form of “Citizen Journalism” is credible–these questions were everywhere. There were no definitive answers to those questions: the moment someone (usually from mainstream media) said that Citizen Journalism isn’t credible, up comes another person pointing out how blogs and flickr has enabled “normal” people to get the newscoop ahead of traditional media. The debate went on and on, back and forth. In the meantime, while the academics debated on the subject of blogs, users gradually evolved blogs into what we now accept as part of how we get our daily news and opinions.

It’s amazing how, in the past couple of years, we not only accept blogs as news sources, but also how we’ve made them a part of our daily media diet. So now that we’ve accepted blogs, what’s next for the medium? Jeff Jarvis gives us an idea in his post “Blogs then and now”

An excerpt:

Three years ago, blogs were still a curiosity to a business audience, new enough to warrant a cover story, strange enough to require explaining. But now, blogs and social media are not only better understood and accepted but they are coming to be seen as a necessity in media and more and more in business. I’ve written three stories in the magazine about business using social media to rebuild relationships with customers — Dell blogging and collaborating with customers and Starbucks opening a platform for customers’ ideas.

Business Week itself has a score of blogs and when I went there for a blogging workshop, what struck me most was that I did not hear the usual objections to blogging that are thrown at me when speaking with a group of media people: that blogs are not professional and thus not reliable. One staffer who came late did fret about the amount of crap out there but her fellow staffers argued her down; I didn’t have to. The meat of the discussion was, instead, no longer about why journalists blog but instead about how to blog better, how to be more involved in the conversation.

Next, I think, Business Week’s writers and readers will move beyond the conversation to see that social media are changing their fundamental relationship with customers to be less about serving and more about collaborating. No, I don’t mean that every product will be the product of a committee. But customers who want to talk will and smart companies will not just listen but will engage them in decisions. This will have an impact not just on PR and image but on product design, marketing, sales, customer service — the whole company.

Three years from now, I predict that Business Week’s cover won’t about about blogs or tools but about companies as communities.

This movement in how blogs are being used is an unconscious evolution–like Twitter, the usage of medium has evolved on its own, through how its users interact with each other. This next step of blogging isn’t some far off vision in some other land, but happening here as well–you can see a blueprint of this evolution in how KLue operates its blog by getting the community involved in the process.

In its previous version, the magazine’s blog used to be a bog-standard top-down post that didn’t invite visitors to contribute, but through subtle changes–the posts are shorter, more personal, and ask open-ended questions–the blog has become better literally overnight.

This is the free prize that Seth Godin writes about in making your product better: in this case, readers buy the magazine, but the relationship between publisher and reader doesn’t end at print; they also get involved in a community with every purchase–the entry to the community is the Free Prize.

Because MySpace Needs An Intervention

In Videos on May 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Thanks to cracked.com: one of the funniest videos yet about what happens if websites were humans. Check out MySpace’s rant against Facebook and TMZ vs. TheSuperficial. Ah, internet geek humour rawks. LAWL.

The video kinda reminded me about this Internet Commenter Business Meeting video I saw ages ago:

BTW: if you get all the references here, it’s obvious you spend way to much time on the internets. Now get back to work, you procrastinator.

Teenager’s Science Project Could Save The World From Plastic

In News on May 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm

(Pic from mzacha)

It’s a sensational headline, but it’s definitely something worth checking out. Daniel Burd, a 16-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario, discovered a way to break down polymers in plastic bags by determining and isolating the most efficient microorganisms that break the polymers. Through this method, it’s believed that plastic bags, which are thought to resist degradation for up to hundreds of years, can be broken down into just three months. He walked away with a $10,000 prize and a $20,000 scholarship.

More from Mother Jones:

Burd combined ground polyethylene plastic bags, sodium chloride, dirt from a landfill (which theoretically contains the microorganisms that ultimately degrade the plastic) and a yeast mixture in shakers for four weeks at a consistent temperature of about 86 degrees.

At the end of the month, he took a sample of that mixture and combined it with a new one, with the goal of increasing the overall concentration of microbes.

After one more repetition, he put fresh plastic bags in his solution for six weeks. In the end, the plastic degraded nearly 20%. A little more filtering to figure out exactly which microbes were the most effective, and he upped the degradation rate to 32%.

He concludes, “The process of polyethylene degradation developed in this project can be used on an industrial scale for biodegradation of plastic bags. As a result, this would save the lives of millions of wildlife species and save space in landfills.”

The full details of his experiment and the strains of the bacteria identified can be found at The Record, while Daniel’s science paper can be found here.

Because Some Guys At Construction Will Do Anything To Strip A Woman

In Videos on May 23, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Right, how do I sum this video up? Fat dudes strips woman with big ass Mechanical Digger with precision. Seriously. That’s one guy who hasn’t been digging much on the construction site.

Urinal Video Game For Beer Monkeys!

In News on May 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

pic courtesy: www.funnyhub.com

Reuters reports:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Two Belgian beer fans have launched a video game named ‘Place to pee’, which allows players to slalom down ski slopes or kill aliens while relieving themselves at urinals.

First off: WOOT?? Beer + Video Games??? OMG – so amazing.

The ‘Place to pee’ booth is designed for two users at a time and offers two games — blowing up aliens in outer space or skiing down a virtual slope. Gamers hit their target by aiming at sensors positioned on either side of the urinal.

A specially designed paper cone allows women to play too, the inventors say.

Their ‘Place to pee’ logo resembles ‘Manneken Pis‘, the little urinating boy fountain that is among Brussels’ top sightseeing attractions.

If theres one thing Belgians do well, (besides hercule poirot) its beer.

Is Google A Safe Bet?

In News on May 23, 2008 at 6:20 am

(Pic from Cjcj)

While everyone has been poring over the turn of events between Microsoft and Yahoo!, as well as exposing the weaknesses on both companies in terms of their core competencies and ability to innovate itself into relevance, Victor Keegan from the Guardian chose to look at Google and question its position.

An excerpt from the Guardian:

So why is Google popular and is it dislodge-able? It all comes down to that frightful word “brand”. But Google is unprecedented because it built up its brand without any paid advertising. We did it for them. It became a verb in record time. It became one of the world’s most profitable brands in barely a decade.

[…]

Google is more vulnerable than people think. It is brilliant at displaying the answers most linked to – but not if what you want is buried deep in the search pile. If a nimble startup delivers a more intelligent engine, people will soon change, as they did when they ditched AltaVista for Google a decade ago. Yahoo, Microsoft and Google have all been upstaged in video and networking sites by brand new startups. Why not search as well?

[…]

The company’s “Don’t be Evil” motto is part of its brand despite its failure to stand up to Chinese censorship. If it had, other companies might have followed its lead and eaten into Chinese obduracy. Google is still a one-product company with search-related ads generating nearly all of its profits.

This could change if a better engine emerges or if it becomes the latest victim to Lord Acton’s dictum: “All power tends to corrupt.” If that happened I could retain all the Google products I treasure (maps, documents, Gmail etc) and spend a few seconds changing my default search engine.

Bottom line is, Google’s not perfect, and there are niches that can still be filled–such vulnerability was written about by Robert Scoble on his post about Google’s bots not accessing Facebook’s data, and how that can be exploited by Microsoft. Then yesterday, Malaysian Internet columnist Oon Yeoh wrote a column about Powerset, a newly launched search engine that uses “natural language”, making it a more effective search engine for sites like Wikipedia.

An excerpt from Oon’s column:

Last week, a new kind of search engine was launched. It’s called Powerset and its mission is to provide a better way to search, using “natural language”. That means instead of typing in keywords like “Oon” and “Yeoh”, you type in questions like “Who is Oon Yeoh?”

The service is still in its infancy and it doesn’t even attempt to index the World Wide Web. For now, its search is confined to content on Wikipedia. I know this seems incredibly underwhelming but think about it. There is a real need for a good search engine for Wikipedia.

[…]

Wikipedia is a highly organised, highly structured website. This makes it relatively easy for Powerset to analyse and index the meaning of the content it finds there. To do this for the entire web is a different kettle of fish. It’s an undertaking that seems almost too challenging.

To manage expectations, Powerset’s CEO Barney Pell has said Powerset is not meant to be a Google killer. Instead, it will focus on “high value” websites, such as Wikipedia. There’s speculation that it will next index blogs or news articles.

[…]

Natural language search has the potential to produce more accurate and more interesting results but for most people, keyword search is more than adequate. Thus, Powerset is no replacement for Google. If anything, it complements it.

Perhaps, Google should just buy it up. Perhaps, that’s just what Powerset wants.

The point is, that there are many ways to search the internet being created, and Google is still in a prime position to improve itself, snapping up other start-ups coming into the market that could potentially make it obsolete like AltaVista.

But I doubt Google will fail to adapt itself. It’s got such a long-term vision with such people like Vint Cerf on board looking towards Cloud Computing and IPTV (Okay, so I was very taken in by his “Internet 2035” Keynote at the recent WCIT), and its ability to draw innovation from within and integrate new technology are prime reasons for its success today.

Google’s hasn’t lost its grip on its core competency, like Microsoft has, and for that reason, it can constantly afford to try out new ideas that will ensure its safety for years to come. It won’t be a one-product company in the future, like Keegan says.

Because This Bird And The Bee Mac Music Video Is Awesome

In Videos on May 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Picked this nice gem from the Digg Reel Show, which I occasionally watch when there’s nothing going on in my life (doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to be). Love the song (Again & Again by Bird And The Bee). Love the hot girl, whoever she is.

Now this is what you call creative procrastination at work.

Are You Gayer than Gaywood? Microsoft Thinks So.

In News on May 22, 2008 at 5:11 pm

(Pic from The Register)

Microsoft hasn’t been the most accommodating of folks when it comes to dealing with the gay community, especially over the past week or so when The Consumerist received a complaint from XBox Live gamer “thegayergamer” after being kicked out for having a name that was offensive.

I have had a bad morning. Last night when i tried to sign into my xbox live account “thegayergamer” I was told that it had to be changed. I figured that it was just from people reporting it as an offensive name being that the greater Xbox live community isn’t exactly welcome to gay people, i spend a lot of time muting people on Halo3. I assumed that once i called Microsoft they would straighten things out.

I talked to a supervisor there, Roxy, who told me that she didn’t personally find the fact that my gamer tag had gay in the name offensive, but that the greater Xbox community did, so i would have to change it. I hope I’m not the only person who finds this don’t ask, don’t tell policy disgusting… eek

Well, that’s not the end of it. Then, up comes Richard Gaywood (read: Dick Gaywood?), another XBox Live gamer who was kicked out, according to The Register:

A Brit gamer has fallen foul of an Xbox live policy that disallows any apparent references to the Friends of Dorothy in gamertags.

Microsoft recently ruled “theGAYERgamer” well offside, and quickly moved to deal with Reg reader Richard Gaywood’s online moniker, as you can see.

Richard told El Reg that MS could have verified the authenticity of his surname from his Live profile, and sighed: “I can’t decide if I’m amused or annoyed by this. Amused by it all but annoyed at the stupidity, I think.”

We attempted to contact MS for a comment this morning, but our reporter Tristram Hornblower was cut off by the Beast of Redmond’s switchboard after his identity tripped the company’s “probable homosexualist” panic switch.

Talk about kicking a man when he’s down: poor Dick. He probably thought the college years were behind him.

Microsoft To Buy Facebook And Yahoo!? Now There’s A Plan For A Showdown With Google

In News on May 21, 2008 at 3:50 pm

An interesting post came up on Robert Scoble’s blog yesterday (decided to follow his twitter feed for some reason and found the link there), and he made an interesting prediction about Microsoft’s next move into challenging Google for the search Ad dollars.

In it, Scoble argues that Facebook’s event listings, or whatever data is available within Facebook is closed to Google–the bots can’t get into them, making it a closed system. If Microsoft acquires Yahoo! and Facebook, Yahoo! would obviously have one advantage Google doesn’t: the ability to troll the tonnes of data available within Facebook. It makes for an interesting standoff that would see “Facebook and Microsoft vs. the open public Web.”

Here’s an excerpt from his post:

Now Microsoft/Yahoo search will have access to HUGE SWATHS of Internet info that Google will NOT have access to.

Data and social graph portability is dead on arrival.

Microsoft just bought itself a search strategy that sure looks like a winner to me.

If all this is true there is no way in hell that Facebook will open up now.

It’s Facebook and Microsoft vs. the open public Web.

Can the open public Web fight back? Yes. It’s called FriendFeed. Notice that FriendFeed replaces almost all of Facebook’s killer features with open ones that are open to Google’s search.

So, now, do you see why I’m so interested in FriendFeed? It’s our only hope to compete with Microsoft’s new “buy enough and keep it closed” search strategy.

Don’t think this matters? It sure does. Relevancy on Yahoo search will go through the roof when it has access to Facebook data and Google doesn’t. People will see that Yahoo has people search (something I’ve asked Google for for years) and Google doesn’t. That’ll turn the tide in advertising, and all that.

Brilliant move, if this all comes true.

I’ve SMS’d Mark Zuckerberg and asked him if he’s selling. I doubt he’ll answer. I hope he holds out for more than $20 billion. He just might get it.

Lawrence Lessig’s Take On The Orphaned Works Act: It Sucks.

In News on May 21, 2008 at 3:31 pm

(Pic from littletinyfish)

Or, more appropriately, it’s vague. The issue of the US Congress mulling over a reform in the matters of orphaned works–essentially works whose owners cannot be found–was discussed in the recent TWiT episode, and on the surface of it, it did look like a simple proposition to sort out copyright issues. Say, if there’s a drawing/photograph/composition whose owner can’t be traced down, it’s always a risk for another person to use that piece of copyrighted information for his own.

Lawsuits involving copyright infringements are all a plenty in the States, and this new “Orphan Works” ruling would seem to be an easy way out for other people to use orphaned works without the fear of a lawsuit hanging over them. All they have to do is just show that they’ve made a “diligent” effort in trying to track the owner, was unsuccessful, and hence, can exonerate him/herself from using the owner’s intellectual property.

Lawrence Lessig, the man famous for advocating the Creative Commons license, has spoken out against this in his essay for the New York Times, essentially calling it “unfair and unwise” because of the vagueness of the law’s definition of “diligence”, among other things.

An excerpt from the NYT:

The solution before Congress, however, is both unfair and unwise. The bill would excuse copyright infringers from significant damages if they can prove that they made a “diligent effort” to find the copyright owner. A “diligent effort” is defined as one that is “reasonable and appropriate,” as determined by a set of “best practices” maintained by the government.

But precisely what must be done by either the “infringer” or the copyright owner seeking to avoid infringement is not specified upfront. The bill instead would have us rely on a class of copyright experts who would advise or be employed by libraries. These experts would encourage copyright infringement by assuring that the costs of infringement are not too great. The bill makes no distinction between old and new works, or between foreign and domestic works. All work, whether old or new, whether created in America or Ukraine, is governed by the same slippery standard.

[…]

The change is also unwise, because for all this unfairness, it simply wouldn’t do much good. The uncertain standard of the bill doesn’t offer any efficient opportunity for libraries or archives to make older works available, because the cost of a “diligent effort” is not going to be cheap. The only beneficiaries would be the new class of “diligent effort” searchers who would be a drain on library budgets.

[…]

A hired expert shouldn’t be required for an orchestra to know if it can perform a work composed during World War II or for a small museum to know whether it can put a photograph from the New Deal on its Web site. In a digital age, knowing the law should be simple and cheap. Congress should be pushing for rules that encourage clarity, not more work for copyright experts.

It’s another fine example of good intentions gone wrong in keeping copyright law with today’s technology. I can see where Lessig is coming from–there are just too many loopholes that would still leave the owner (be they in the US, or even worse, abroad) open to exploitation. And it would only benefit those middle men, the “researchers” in making more money.

You can dig up the history on the Orphan Works Act here.

Microsoft Photosynth: Making You Go WTF?!

In Geek Stuff, News, Videos on May 20, 2008 at 9:34 am

It’s an old video taken from the TED conference last year, but for some reason, this presentation by Blaise Aguera y Arcas on Photosynth resurfaced on the Digg site today. Not many people knew about it obviously, including myself. But the demo here on how networked images can be viewed is mind-blowing: it’s hard to imagine technology like this exists, and hopefully Microsoft can roll it out in the right way.

Having been in development over the past year, the demo you see is already up and running at Microsoft’s Live Labs for a preview, so you can try it out yourself. It runs on Active X though, which isn’t great if you’re paranoid on security issues.

Somehow, this reminded me of Microsoft Surface that was supposed to come out last year. Where the hell is it? Microsoft, don’t botch up cool tech like this.

Here’s a little bio on the creator:

Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ background is as multidimensional as the visions he helps create. In the 1990s, he authored patents on both video compression and 3D visualization techniques, and in 2001, he made an influential computational discovery that cast doubt on Gutenberg’s role as the father of movable type.

He also created Seadragon (acquired by Microsoft in 2006), the visualization technology that gives Photosynth its amazingly smooth digital rendering and zoom capabilities. Photosynth itself is a vastly powerful piece of software capable of taking a wide variety of images, analyzing them for similarities, and grafting them together into an interactive three-dimensional space. This seamless patchwork of images can be viewed via multiple angles and magnifications, allowing us to look around corners or “fly” in for a (much) closer look.

Simply put, it could utterly transform the way we experience digital images.

Steve Ballmer Gets Egged

In News on May 20, 2008 at 4:41 am

Cripes. Nothing seems to be going right for Steve-O is it? If he’s not getting Yahoo!, he’s getting egged. (Note: Microsoft is reportedly aiming to do another bid for Yahoo!, exploring an “alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo! but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo!”. So maybe Ballmer might get his day after all.)

Anyway, back to the story of Ballmer getting egged: While giving a talk at a Hungarian university, a guy stood up, yelled “Give back the money of the taxpayers” in a weird accent, and started throwing eggs at him. From Gizmodo:

Steve Ballmer finally gets to join his buddy Bill Gates in the “food target club” after a visit to the Hungarian University of Economy. A guy (grad student? just some dude?) stood up, yelled “Give back the money of the taxpayers” in an accent Ballmer probably couldn’t understand, and started throwing eggs at him.

Our tipster Joco explains:

Microsoft has midterm contracts with the state in Hungary for “way cheaper than from the store” Campus-licences. This costs billions (in HUF, 160HUF=1USD) for the state and makes students stuck in the Microsoft-world, not knowing Linux etc.

It’s not quite as violent as the Bill Gates encounter, but it still doesn’t feel good. You know, when someone eggs you. Ballmer is not a house.